Should Your Company Care More About Your Marriage?

Amber Johnson Care for people

When Thomas (not his real name) was a young staff member at an organization that worked directly with youth, his boss had an unusual approach to staff retreats: bring your spouse. At first this seemed odd – wasn’t the purpose of the staff retreat to get colleagues together for team building and strategic planning? And wouldn’t Thomas’ wife’s presence be a distraction?

His boss saw it differently, essentially saying, “I know this job demands a lot. If the work has the support of your spouse, and if you as a couple agree on how to handle work/life balance, you’ll be a better colleague.”
When I heard this story from Thomas, five years ago, his boss’s approach seemed exceptional. Perhaps, instead, it was an idea ahead of its time.
A new survey, released on May 23rd by Net Impact, says next to financial security, marriage is what most workers feel they need to be happy.
Financial security, marriage, and meaningful work: ingredients of a happy workforce.
(Graphic taken from  Net Impact’s executive summary of this study.)
Additionally, work/life balance is the most important element of the ideal job, said survey respondents. The survey, titled Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012, looked at a statistically-significant sample of 1726 recent graduates, as well as employed workers from three different generations.
Could Work Make Your Marriage Better?
This research caught my eye, because I have two areas research interest: business and marriage. As the corporate relations advisor for the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, I support executives who are working to improve employee engagement and workforce culture; and I often blog about related topics at this site. In my personal life, I research and blog about marriage at the site my husband and I started, www.weddedness.com. Suddenly, with one statistical set, my two worlds were colliding.
Marriage, like a career, has its ups and downs. Is there anyway your company could help make your marriage a little less volatile? A little more rewarding? And, in turn, by having a happier marriage, could you also be a happier employee? This data set suggests that possibility.
So how could companies support your personal relationships in a way that is non-invasive? Here is a short list of suggestions:
  • Don’t reward overwork: create a culture that does not expect employees to be “on” around the clock; enforce vacation-taking.
  • Make it easy to bring a partner on a work trip: provide time and means for family dinners, with easy options for an employee to repay the organization for the partner’s expenses. Allow extra time for site-seeing or beach-lounging.
  • Provide easy access to professional counseling: most health plans allow for counseling services, but employees may not realize this can be a rich path for improving and enhancing their relationship. Share information about local resources and your health plans’ coverage.
  • Celebrate milestones: send anniversary cards, invite partners to the Christmas party.
  • Follow the lead of Thomas’ boss: consider hosting optional day-long retreats for employees and their partners, with sessions led by relationship experts.
This topic has the potential to make some people a little squeamish: we want to keep the company out of our bedrooms. But perhaps your workplace can enhance your relationships, and maybe the richness of your marriage will make you a better employee. Certainly it will make you a happier one. So should your company care more about your marriage? The answer is Yes.
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Amber Johnson is the Center for Values-Driven Leadership‘s corporate relations and social media advisor. She is a non-profit and small business communications professional. In addition to blogging about business for the CVDL, Amber writes about marriage and other topics on her personal blog